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Evaluating Cooking Programs
At this point you should have decided on the type of degree that you want to attain, and whether or not you would like to enroll in a private or a public school. Since there are numerous cooking institutions in the Homewood area and within the United States, you need to develop a checklist of essential qualifications so that you can begin narrowing down your choices. Certain obvious qualifiers, including cost and location are an excellent place to begin. But selecting a school because it is the closest or the cheapest is not the best way to decide on your education. There are other considerations, for instance accreditation and reputation that you must review as well. So below are some key areas that you should research for every school as you compare and contrast them and make your ultimate selection.
Accreditation. It's essential that the culinary school you select has some type of accreditation from either a regional or a national agency. As previously stated, the accrediting authority should be a U.S. Department of Education recognized authority, such as the American Culinary Federation (ACF). ACF accredited schools have successfully completed a detailed review relating to their course of study, instructors and facilities. So not only does accreditation help ascertain that you will receive exceptional training, but it can also assist in obtaining a student loan or financial aid which are generally not accessible for non-accredited schools.
Age. Recently established schools generally have the benefit of having modern facilities and equipment. However, they may not have been open long enough to garner an accreditation or to develop a reputation. Conversely, more established schools may still be using their original, dated equipment, but have established a long history of success and received one or more accreditations. Also, the longer a school has been in business, the more alumni the school can solicit for its job placement program. Obviously there is some give and take based on the age of the culinary arts schools. And older, more highly regarded schools usually modernize their equipment and facilities. The valuable lesson is that in the best case scenario, your school of choice will have an exceptional reputation, accreditation and a modern facility with newer equipment.
Job Placement Rates. First, find out what the graduation rates are for the cooking programs you are reviewing. Low graduation rates are indicators that a number of students were unhappy with either the schools or the training and quit before graduating. They can also signify that the instructors were not qualified to teach the curriculum. Ask the schools to furnish their job placement rates as well. If a school has a higher job placement rate, it will help verify that it has a great or outstanding reputation within the culinary field, as well as a broad network of professional connections. Be skeptical of any school that will not provide this information.
Location. The culinary college that you enroll in must be within driving distance of your Homewood residence, unless you are able to relocate. You may consider attending classes online, but you would still need to travel for your externship program. On the other hand, perhaps you have chosen to go to a specific culinary college located in another state due to its prominence and programs offered. It would be a good idea to visit the campus before enrolling, to make certain that you are comfortable with the area and your prospective living conditions. Look over the training facilities in person to make sure they are up to date and that the equipment is contemporary. Remember also that a number of schools target their job placement programs within their local communities, so choose a location where you will be happy working.
Class Sizes. The ideal method to learn how to cook is with lots of personalized training. If the culinary arts program you enroll in has bigger classes, you will most likely get limited personal attention from the teachers. The ideal means to evaluate the interaction and communication between teachers and students is to attend some of the classes. Ask a couple of the students what their experience has been. Find out if they are satisfied with the level of attention they receive in class in addition to the entire course of training. Also, talk with some of the instructors and find out what their teaching approaches are along with their experiences and qualifications.
Flexible Class Schedules. There is no point in enrolling in a culinary school if you will not be able to attend the classes. So make sure that the school you choose offers class scheduling that can work with your hectic lifestyle. If you can only attend in the evening or on Saturdays or Sundays near Homewood AL because of your work schedule, confirm that the school you select offers either weekend or evening classes. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the culinary arts school has a part-time offering. Also, ask what the make-up protocol is if you have to miss a class because of family, work or other responsibilities.
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